“The faces we saw today were the faces of hope, determination and courage, not the faces of incarcerated women,” Prater said.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb urged ReMerge graduates to remain in the state to continue their education and become productive citizens. Most graduates said they had pursued their educations in the program with some attending college classes.
“What you've done is absolutely extraordinary,” Lamb said. “Oklahoma needs you.”
Lamb credited former House Speaker Kris Steele, who attended the ceremony, with generating political support for alternative-to-prison programs like ReMerge, a public-private partnership that works closely with the district attorney, public defenders, the Department of Corrections and other agencies and nonprofit services that help women facing prison time for nonviolent felony offenses.
“I'm very proud of these women,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. Completion of the program will allow graduates to remain in their homes and avoid being separated from their children, Steele said.
Chrystal Kinsey, a 36-year-old mother of three, said the skills she learned helped prevent her from slipping back into addiction after a massive tornado struck near her home in Moore in May, damaging or destroying schools her children attended. None of them was injured.
“But even through this tragedy I have stayed strong and have remained sober and that was due to the tools I have gained while being in the ReMerge program,” she said.
Jamie Goodin, 31, said the program had helped her become a better mother, sister, daughter and friend.
“I am for the first time in my life very proud of who I've become,” Goodin said. “I am very happy with everything in my life at this point in my recovery and without ReMerge I wouldn't be at this milestone marker headed to where I have got my mind set to go.”